Around 450 million people globally suffer from a mental or behavioral disorder. Psychological disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol-use disorders are among the leading causes of years lived with disability. Almost 1 million people commit suicide each year.

Yet, only around 40 percent of adults and 20 percent of children and adolescents with mental health disorders receive appropriate mental health treatment.

People with psychological disorders often experience double stigma – they have to fight discrimination and prejudices on top of their mental illness. Mental illness stigma creates prejudices and discrimination that a person often internalizes, which makes their mental health problems worse. The stigma prevents people with mental illness from seeking support and treatment and hinders their recovery.

Why People Develop Mental Health Problems

There are several reasons why someone develops mental and behavioral disorders. Usually, mental health problems are triggered by a combination of genetics, environmental factors, and individual experiences. Regardless of their cause, mental health disorders are health problems, just like any physical disease. 

However, people with mental health problems are often looked upon differently. While we usually have sympathy for those physically ill or injured, we tend to deny the same compassion to people with mental health illnesses. 

How Does Mental Illness Stigma Affect a Person’s Day-to-Day Life?

Many people with mental illness report experiencing a stigma related to their mental health condition. The stigma attached to mental illness usually produces prejudices, discrimination, and adverse actions toward persons with mental health problems.  

Prejudice and discrimination can prevent people with mental illness from seizing opportunities and living fulfilling lives. The stigma usually limits people’s ability to find and keep a job, live in safe and decent housing, get health care, participate in social activities, and maintain positive, long-term relationships. Particularly people who belong to minority groups are often hit with bias, stigma, and day-to-day bigotry. 

A lack of understanding of mental illness and the stigma often prevent people with mental disorders from seeking professional mental health help. Many individuals with mental health challenges choose to conceal their struggles and resort to self-medication instead. 

Studies show that men are less likely than women to seek help for their mental health issues, most likely due to stereotypes and masculinity norms that expect them to be tough and bottle up feelings. 

Also, men are often unwilling to seek support from family members or close friends, which causes them to remain unidentified, undiagnosed, and untreated. 

How to Overcome Mental Illness Stigma?

Changing deep-seated attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors is a challenging task. However, research suggests that individuals with mental illness would benefit from openly discussing their mental health issues within their families, social circles, and the wider community. In-person contact and an honest conversation is the best way to fight the stigma. So, it is critical to encourage people to talk about their challenges. Likewise, raising the awareness that mental illness can happen to everyone regardless of their race, color, identity, age, or social status can help overcome the stigma attached to mental health.